Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rich O 2.0- Almost 8 Months Later

So 5 months ago I said I was taking a break from talking about my new healthier lifestyle here (tho I've bored people aplenty on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and I was good to my word. Recently I felt compelled to check in again as I get a lot of people asking how it's going and even more people asking how I'm doing it. I'm technically about 7 3/4 months since I started this crazy lifestyle change on March 1, 2013 and feel like I've got a solid plan in place to keep it going for the foreseeable future
A1C Risk Chart

To refresh memories I started on this path (ugh, I almost said journey...barf) after a horrible physical where my blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure were all way up. My primary goal was to reduce my hemoglobin A1C (kind of a look at blood sugar levels over a 90 day period. See chart to the right to see the dangers of a high A1C) from a 11 to a 6 with my lesser goals being to lose 35 pounds and to regulate my blood pressure. As of October 8th my A1C was 5.85 (which is the edge of pre-diabetes), I went from 234 lbs to 187 lbs (I sit around 190 as of this writing and I'm happy about that (to be explained a bit later)) for a grand total of 47 lbs lost and my blood pressure of 140/88 to an average of 115/75! On a more aesthetic level I dropped from a 38 to 34 waist in pants, XXL to XL or L in shirts and L in gym shorts and bathing suits. I've put in over 300 cardio workouts, walked over 1,500 miles and totally changed my eating habits! Mission accomplished? Mission just getting started!!

One of the odd side effects of this has been people 1) commenting on how "good" I look and 2) asking for advice. The former is hard on me as if you know me you know I'm far more comfortable poking fun at myself then taking compliments. The latter I Always start with "well, here's what I did but that may or may not work for you". My method took discipline, regiment, and sacrifice to a level I didn't know I was capable of. For me the hardest sacrifices were those of spare time, my beloved junk food, and a lot of my vaunted strength. I've slowly worked all these things back into my life in various quantities and am happy with the results. I finally feel like I've packed some lean muscle back on which makes me happy. But every situation is different so below are some generalities I'd recommend for anyone looking to change up their health and wellness routine

1) Dieting Doesn't Work- Dieting by its very nature is a change in eating for a specific amount of time to reach a specific goal and then ends. If you've gone this route you know how hard it is to maintain once your goal is reached A mix of eating smarter and exercise which you can maintain forever is a better idea

2) Do What Works Best For Your Situation- You need to know how you can work exercise and better eating into your particular circumstance. For me running was out because of bad knees so I walk. My job affords me being able to stay active so I do. My singleness allows me to eat what and when I want so I take advantage of that. Trying to do someone else's routine usually doesn't work

3) Get Up And Move- I cannot stress enough that this was the #1 mitigating factor in my well being. Go grab a Fitbit or download Argus or even just grab a pedometer and get moving! 10,000 steps a day is the minimum you should be looking for (I average about 15,000) and you can get there through every day chores as well as straight up exercise. If you do nothing else, do this. It will help, I promise

4) Stop Wishing, Start Doing- Don't get mad, jealous, etc at someone's success and your struggles. Whether it's easier or harder for someone else the odds are their success is linked to hard work and discipline. You can do it too!

5) Take Your Time- I used My Fitness Pal to set a goal weight and a time to get there. I figured on losing 1/2 pound to a pound a week. I knew this was healthy and attainable and I could do it without "starving". Trust me, you'll end up losing weight more quickly then a 1/2 pound a week

6) Be Consistent- Use the same scale to weigh yourself. Weigh yourself once a week (max) the same time of day and in the same state of dress. Weighing yourself too often our with many different scales will most likely have a negative effect on you mentally

7) Count Your Calories- I've mentioned it before but the formula for losing weight is calories in less calories burned thru activity. At the beginning worry only about total calories eaten, not kind of calories eaten (well, there are exceptions, see #8). Carbs have gotten a bad rap and are an essential part of a balanced diet to don't skip them

8) Check With Your Doctor First- I know that sounds like a line from an infomercial but it's true. If you have a condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, celiak, or anything else then the rules for your food plan will likely be different from the norm

9) Knowledge Is Power- It is important to know exactly how much you're eating and how much you're burning to be successful. Packaged food comes with tons of caloric information on it but generic foods are harder to nail down, not to mention restaurant meals. I strongly recommend a combination of My Fitness Pal (caloric data base), Digifit (cardio tracker) and Fitbit (activity tracker) to most accurately track calories in versus out

10) No Days Off- Live the lifestyle! Enjoy life but know it comes with trade offs. If you know you have a big meal ahead exercise more and eat less earlier that day. Make sure you work at least 30 minutes of activity into every day, no excuses. I walked 5 miles in a 4 hour layover at an airport recently, will get up and exercise on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. I won't kill myself but by getting my work in I can relax and enjoy the day without worry.

And Lastly 11) Don't Get Discouraged- Nothing can foil plans of a healthier lifestyle then getting discouraged because a) you're not being as successful as you want or b) because you were "bad" for a day. Simply hike up your pants, lace up your boots and get right back at it the next day

So, yes, that's the advice I can give. I'm NOT an expert. I DON'T have years of success. I CAN'T guarantee I won't regain everything I've lost. But I BELIEVE following these guidelines I will continue to have success. If you take nothing else out of this just remember that you need to find what works best for you and your situation. Everything else should fall into place from there

Thursday, August 22, 2013

(Not So) Easy Peasy

"If anyone told you life was going to be easy they lied"

Rich O'Rourke, date unknown

The quote above is attributed to me as I don't recall hearing anywhere specifically (tho variations surely exist) and I've adopted as my own. I say it a lot when I hear people who are down on their lives (the FML crowd). I've always been a realist and with a few exceptions never one to fall into "woe is me mode". There was a short period in my life when I actually had people seek out my counseling or advice for what they interpreted as their crappy life. I'd always open with "do you want the truth or do you want me to make you feel good" and upon the truth selection I'd say "If anyone told you life was going to be easy they lied". Tough love for sure. The plain truth is life is incredibly hard.Just living life and all it's pitfalls and the like is the hardest thing we do. But you know what? If it was easy anyone could do it

Life starts difficult and gets more so as we move along in life. Let's face it the process of being born is likely an unpleasant experience, just one we (thankfully) don't remember. Learning to crawl, walk and speak are hard. Being a kid is no simple task. High school...wow, can anything be more difficult then navigating your teen years as a high school student? College is a lot of work and stress. Your job can be all consuming. Relationships are really hard. Maintaining a relationship is even harder. Being a parent is maybe the hardest job anyone will ever have. Being a GOOD parent even harder. Getting old...well, that just plain sucks. My point? Life, from the day we're born to the day we drop, is not easy

So why is it so difficult? Because being a person, a human being, if a very complicated deal. The older we get the more we're responsible for and the more we're expected to know about how to handle these things. The problem is there is no real instruction manual for life! We fumble and stumble through most things thinking we know how we're going to do only to realize we know nothing! As much as they pump it into your head, what you learn in college rarely prepares you for your actual job. Getting married, cohabiting with someone for the rest of your life, isn't as simple as it might seem. No advice, no book, no online course or video series can possibly prepare us for parenting. Nope, life is all about trial and error, on the job training and learning experiences. And no, it's never easy

So why do we get out of bed in the morning when life is so hard? Well because life is so awesome it's worth all the pain and aggravation! The pride of winning that game, graduating from school, that first paycheck or promotion, watching your child's first step, or attending your grand kid's wedding. They make it all worthwhile. Human beings are quick to learn from their mistakes and are very forgiving so tho we may stumble we tend to get another chance to make right. And another. Annnnnd another. In most cases we have parents, teachers, friends, mentors and other role models to emulate and to guide us along the right path. Even when we fail completely life always offers us opportunity to try, try again. And THAT is what makes life worth living

So, yeah, life ain't easy and sometimes it downright sucks. But don't get down as we're all in the same boat and we'll get through this together. Keep your chin up, stay even keeled, keep your eyes on the prize and any other bullshit cliche you can come up with. The rewards for all our stress, heartache, pain, and crying far out weight the risks. Ask questions, read books, pray, cry, see a therapist, make mistakes, make adjustments, make corrections, get it right. Rinse and repeat.

So, no, life isn't easy. If it was anyone could do it...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Ah, mankind! The highest form of intelligence on planet Earth. The Alpha species if you will. Yup, top of the food chain we are. Well I've got news for ya. We ain't all that smart. Oh sure we've come up with some amazing things. The internal combustion engine, splitting the atom, and even space travel. But just take a look at your television and tell me the minds that came up with those life changing ideas are from the same gene pool as those featured on America's Funniest Home Videos, Ridiculousness, or any reality show. Hard to fathom, no? Not only are we stupid but we're treated stupidly apparently for our own good. This is notable  in the signs, labels and warnings we see every day. So some of you are saying "But Rich, you've mentioned this before". Yes, yes I have! This however is more of my master list of stupid, pointless signs, labels and warning I literally see almost every day. So...

1) The drinking fountain a the gym has a sign that reads "No spitting in drinking fountain" then amended to say "no spitting gum in drinking fountain". Either action is so obviously something a child shouldn't do let alone a gym full of "adults" that a sign should not be necessary. Last night at the gym there was a giant wad of green gum in the drinking fountain

2) Same gym at least 10 signs which state "No Cell Phone Use" while the machines, cardio equipment and locker rooms are chock full of people...you guessed it, on their phones

3) On the lawn of a church near my house the sign reads "Please Don't Curb Your Dog On Our Lawn". I'd think for most normal folk that would be obvious

4) Conversely the park I sometimes walk around has dozens and dozens of signs imploring dog owners to pick up their dogs feces. Since half the dogs are nowhere near their owners, and large piles of shit remain on the path, I'm sure it was someone else s dog's shit

5) The always busy on-ramp on my way to work with the sign that says "No Turns". Honestly, anyone stupid enough to try and take a 180 degree turn to drive the wrong way on that ramp deserves what they get. (on a side not that ramp also features a sign that reads "Yield" that as far as I can recall no one has ever heeded)

6) The plastic bags that nearly everything comes packed in has to read "This Is Not A Toy" for fear of a child suffocating. Fine except the fact the most likely victims of this would be children too young to read the warning. Any parent who encourages it as a toy should be suffocated

Our coffee cups tell us the liquid is hot, water bottles list water as an ingredient, drain cleaner warns us not to drink it,  we have signs on the highway telling us it's illegal to text and drive and we can't enter an establishment that serves food without being reminded that consuming undercooked meat is bad (and overcooked meat a crime) and to inform our server if we have any food allergies. It's a wonder we ever made it this far without this explicit set of instructions since man walked upright

My old boss prescribed to the theory you have to spell everything out to people explicitly or they are bound to not understand (or try and twist ambiguous language to their advantage). I feel the opposite. I still think people should be able to think things out for themselves but prefer not to think at all. Think about it...

Mama says, "Stupid is as stupid does." Forrest Gump

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Rich O 2.0- Update 90 Days In

So after boring you all to tears with the why and how for my changes in taking care of myself I figured it's time for an update. As I write this I've more or less hit my initial goal of 200 lbs. More or less as I'm hovering right around that line. As I've been a slave to weighing in the same time and day every week for accuracy I know any given random night after a big meal etc I could be 201. Or 197. Or who knows. But I'm happy with where I'm at. The daily fasting glucose has been between 90 and 120 for almost 2 months (pretty good), blood pressure continues to drop, I've dropped a pant size and shirt size (and made a few trips to Goobwill will the fat, fat pants as you always hang onto the fat pants for a while) and have gone 90 straight days with at least 40 minutes of cardio exercise. So now the question is where do we I go next?

As I've said over and again I started this for health reasons, not to look good (lets face it, that's not an easy task given what I got to work with). I do look in the mirror and see a healthier looking person so that's a bonus. I'm not looking to get in triathlon shape, just be a healthier version of old me. I want to learn to maintain the good eating habits I've started for general health as well as diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol. I want to stick with the better balance of proteins, fast carbs, slow carbs and veggies that I've established. I want to stay injury free and start packing some of the lost muscle back on my frame. What I'm not sure about is how much more actual weight I want to lose

I'm trying not to sound cocky but I feel that with the plan I set forth I could likely get down to 185 in a couple more months. But that's not what I want right now. I don't want to keep losing in big chunks but rather a 1/2 pound a week max right now. And it's not as easy as it sounds. I've been burning about
800-1,200 calories a day on average through exercise and being generally very active (Fitbit activity tracker is the best investment I ever made) while trying to hit a net of 2050 calories  which would mean eating around 3,000 calories a day of "good" food. Not as easy as it sounds. I'm eating about 1000% more veggies then ever before but, prepared healthily, you have to eats tons of them to get to a decent caloric intake. Fast carbs (breads, pasta, potatoes) are more or less treats now. They'll never be gone completely as while carbs have become seen as something evil they are necessary in a balanced diet. I've been experimenting more with fast carbs like sweet potato and quinoa but I'm still trying to avoid carbs period in my last meal of the day which, ironically enough, is the only meal I'd have time to preparing quinoa or sweet potato. Ughhhh!

Soooo...I've decided to keep on keeping on. I'm going to try and keep eating like I've been eating and not going to try too hard to add calories. I'll just let the chips fall where they may. While I'll keep checking my weight once a week I won't be obsessed with no loss or a slight gain as, assuming my elbow holds up, I plan to be back on weight training 3-4 times a week.  I'll continue to work on my diet and rely less on supplements (and hopefully meds soon) to remain healthy. I've been experimenting with green smoothies (spinach, apple, celery, cucumber, parsley and ginger) to supplement my diets as opposed to meal replacements (again, as a diabetic my meals need more balance then all veggies & fruit). I'll continue to vary and increase my cardio past weight loss level and onto aerobic level and higher. I still think my knees and feet won't ever withstand running but see more hiking in my near future. I still have a rather prodigious beer belly that needs some smoothing out. So I guess bottom line is just keep improving myself where I can, have fun when I want but always earning my cheat meals and Miller Lites. Sounds like a plan, right?

So, that's where we're at. I'm still going to lean heavily on Fitbit, Digifit, and MyFitnessPal so if anyone uses them and wants to be friends and share encouragement let me know. What I know about all this stuff I could fit in my pinkie nail so please continue with the sage advice. Well hopefully this is the last post about my
health crisis for a while. Party on!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Rich O 2.0 Part 3- What's Been My Biggest Help (Or Using Your Smart Phone For More Then Angry Birds To Help You Get Healthy)

So I've talked some about my diet and exercise plan to get healthier and my tact being hitting a net caloric goal of calories in from food less calories burned thru exercise and activity. For me the magic number has been 2050 net calories. Below that means more weight loss, above that, well, not so much. A daunting task to keep track of accurately. So I put on my thinking cap and I realized I already had the most important tool to get this done!

OK I want you to reach into your pocket or belt holster or pocketbook and tell me if you find an object about 4 1/2 inches long x 2 1/2 inches wide (get your minds out of the gutter). Go ahead, I can wait...If you're like a growing percentage of the population you'll probably find an iPhone or Android or some other form of smart phone. Well for a lot of people the "smart" is a misnomer. They simply aren't used very smartly. Most of us don't get past email, texts, photos, games and social media (oh, and phone calls). There is a slew of practical, useful apps out there that can make you more productive including many to help with fitness and weight loss. As I've said before I'm a geek at heart and I like numerical evidence of how things work so for me using my phone to track everything I did was a perfect match. I looked around a bit and some trial and error and found what worked for me. All 3 apps and/or websites are free to use but there is one additional piece of hardware you need and to make all 3 synchronize in perfect harmony it will probably cost you about $7-$10 for premium service. This is not the order I discovered these apps but in retrospect this is the order to get them and to synch them

screen shot FitBit app
First is the Fitbit One (or whatever the most current model is). It's what's known as an activity meter. Think of it as a pedometer on steroids. I got my Fitbit One at Amazon. It's primary function is to track your daily activity counting steps and floors climbed The preset goal is 10,000 steps and 10 floors a day. It's not as
easy as it sounds. For me 10,000 steps is just under 5 miles. On a work day, along with my morning walk, I usually hit 15,000 steps. It also calculates, based on age and weight, the number of calories you burn hitting you goal. I generally put it in my pocket when I go to work and carry it all day. On my days off it's a nice reminder to get up and get moving. You'll feel guilty if you don't hit your goal, trust me. What it really does is it forces you to do all the cliches you've been hearing for years like "park further away and walk" or "take the stairs and not the elevator". But you know what? It's true. You burn calories in everything you do and Fitbit allows you to track and get credit for this. It can also be used independent of a phone app on your computer, can track sleep and exercise and calories so if you just want to start simple this is the one for you. But there are better options for tracking exercise and calories

Screen shot DigiFit app
Digifit is the first fitness app I used. I was walking and looking for a way to track how far I'd walked. I had seen a commercial where some dork used GPS tracking technology and his bike to draw a heart around the city so I knew it existed. There's actually quite a few of them. I settled on Digifit (which to also confuse things
markets itself under several different names) as it tracked a variety of outdoor activities and indoor cardio as well with some accessories. The free version works based on GPS so it tracks how far and how fast you've done your exercise then based on age and weight (kind of like the cardio machines at the gym) gives you a calories burned number. Beautiful. The premium version allows you to connect to external devices and other apps including Fitbit! I ended up also purchasing a heart rate monitor strap (hrm) as I wanted more accurate reading especially when I was using the elliptical or stationary bike at the gym. With Digifit and Fitbit synched it gives you the best idea of how many calories you burn between actual exercise and just keeping busy. For example if you wear Fitbit for a walk, jog, run or hike it counts your steps but ignore the calories burned for that specific event so you don't get a double count. Brilliant. But how do we know how many calories we've eaten without checking every damned label?? Well for that we have...

Screen shot MyFitnessPal app
My Fitness Pal is a calorie counting website/app with a massive, massive database of foods both general and specific, covers foods found at the grocery store, chain restaurants, as well as lets you input you own recipes. This is a powerful tool! Ya know the expression what you don't know may kill you?? Well if it's food we're talking about it just may be true. Pop quiz- Which has more calories 4 tablespoons (I'd say about the average amount most people use) of my awesome homemade Caesar dressing or an Egg McMuffin sandwich? Sadly Mickey Dees wins that one 300 to 320! How about 3 Miller Lite (288) versus 2 Buds (290) versus 2 Blue Moon (368)? It all adds up. Knowledge is power! You will be prompted to give your age, weight and goal weight and it will set a daily net calorie goal for you. To use it you simply start typing in the food item (or scan a bar code) that you are going to eat, select the number of serving and BAM it's added to your daily total giving you a snapshot of what you have left for the day. As it's net calories it subtracts calories burnt through exercise so it gives you a real life number. Exercise calories can be entered manually of course but there is a better way...

So I chose each of these programs/apps/devices for they're versatility, accuracy, the fact all 3 work together harmoniously and all 3 have an iPhone app as well as full websites . There are other activity meters out there but none other then FitBit that works with DigiFit and MyFitnessPal. So here's how I used all 3 to get in better shape!
1) Buy a bathroom scale and weigh in once a week. Daily will drive you nuts. Buy a kitchen scale as portion control and understanding potions is key. Meal prep is also key as "winging it" has a lot more pitfalls then a well thought out meal. Also I cant swear this "system" works for specialized diets like Paleo, clean foods, juicing, etc but rather for a balanced eating plan. Most importantly be honest. Lying about what you ate does you no good. Sweat the details and include everything including condiments and drinks (veggie toppings etc you don't need to worry about too much) including the milk or cream in your coffee. I almost always enter breakfast and lunch items in the night before as I always know what I'm having for those meals. Being regimented and disciplined can only help

2) Get your FitBit and download the app. Get the paid version of Digifit and get MyFitnessPal. Now for best accuracy connect the apps together as such FitBit to DigiFit, FitBit to MyFitnessPal. If you do it any other way the calories burned will be inaccurate (its all based on algorithms etc anyway so nothing is 100% accurate). Set up of each is fairly simple.

3) OK so here's what I do. Any activity I do involving steps (walking, jogging, running, hiking) I carry my Fitbit and record the workout using Digifit. Digifit intuitively doesn't give you double credit for the calories but still allows you to keep track of your workouts and give you credits towards your daily step goal. The calorie information is then synched to MyFitnessPal and you get you net calorie total (food less exercise). I also carry my FitBit with me every waking moment so I can track what kind of activity I'm producing during mundane tasks like work and cleaning my house. Any workouts I do at the gym I record manually (or as I bought a heart rate monitor its recorded automatically). All 3 apps give you places to track your goals and weight, measurements, etc and they synch up with each other! As a system it gives you a nice snapshot of your day in food and exercise. What I mostly love is the checks and balances. If I don't feel like going to the gym then smaller dinner. If I wanna go out for a few beers then I exercise a little harder. Pretty simple if you ask me

Like I said, this has worked for me so far. This was built for someone who takes on things the way I do. I've been to a lot of websites reading about weight loss and health as a "journey". For me it's not a journey but a goal and I'm attacking it like any other goal I've set. When I was power training I had a mindset, a zone, a place I "went to" that helped me achieve being the strongest S.O.B. in the gym. I'm too beat up to lift like that anymore but I'm going at this the same way. There's a learning curve and a discipline to make it work but it's all very doable. By using this system I've been able to track my exercise, activity and diet towards a healthier me!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Rich O 2.0 Part 2- What I'm Doing About It (Or The One Where Rich Learned To Love Egg Beaters-Yuck!)

So, where were we? Oh yeah, wake up call #3. It was like being hit over the head with a cast iron pan to try and wrap my head around high blood sugar, high blood pressure and cholesterol all at once. The NP recommended I meet with the diabetic nurse in a couple weeks to get some insight into eating and diabetes and I agreed (ironically I had met with the same nurse back at the onset of the diabetes). She also recommended walking at least 30 minutes a day. Apparently from a blood circulation standpoint etc sustained movement is better then short, intense cardio. She also mentioned losing weight would go a long way towards lowering all 3 issues that I was experiencing. So I left the hospital and do what I typically do when taking on something new that's important to me. I set a plan in motion and jumped in headlong

The first thing I did was to prioritize and the order of importance was 1) blood sugar 2) exercise 3) weight loss 4) blood pressure & cholesterol. I figured #2 & #3 would help in #4. So I immediately purchased a new glucose meter and strips for of the moment blood sugar readings, a scale (for the first time in my life) and a blood pressure cuff. I made a promise to myself I'd only use the scale and cuff once a week to not drive myself crazy. I decided to go at this old school Atkins style by counting all net carbs and seeing the effect on my blood sugar (there's an app for that...more on that soon). I decided to finally take advantage of my new later work hours by getting up and walking before work. So bright and early the next morning (and every morning but one since) I walked 40-60 minutes at a brisk pace. It wasn't always as simple as it sounds as it was still butt cold and often rainy but I decided no excuses!! The harder part was giving up so many of my beloved homemade foods based on the high carb count or not getting accurate nutritional info like you can get on (ugh) packaged food. Just to clear the air on one thing, I generally ate very healthy 5 days and 4 nights a week. Weekends were my downfall. All those awesome, yummy, unhealthy pictures I tantalized you with were simply picture-posting worthy food and not typical of how I ate. That said I had no handle on how good or bad what I was ingesting was for me. So anyhow I was counting carbs, recording glucose, weighing in and taking my blood pressure and just before my meeting with the diabetic nurse all 3 had improved tho not dramatically (the drugs probably helped as well). The diabetic nurse was the one that really set me on the right path

So the nurse was a small, upper middle age woman who I had met before in 2003. She pretended she remembered me but cmon! Anyways she reviewed my A1C, where it was and where it should be. Told me to stop counting carbs and worry more about calories!! She said more people control their diabetes by common sense and weight loss then counting carbs.  We discussed the mix of proteins to carbs to fruits and veggies, which were best and when best to eat them (and best when to not eat them). We talked specifically about my lifestyle and work schedule and set forth an eating schedule. My new plan of attack was eating in a reverse pyramid of descending meal size starting with a big breakfast with carbs, protein, etc ending with dinner which would only be protein and veggies. Probably most important was a smaller meal while I was at work for the sake of energy, hunger management, blood sugar control and eliminating the need for a larger meal after 7:30. She also said some stuff I took with a grain of salt (buying smaller plates, special ordering food when I go out to dinner, throwing out anything unhealthy I have in my house, etc). I know my self control and know what I can and cannot handle. So, new information in hand I went on my merry way again

So I start some research on do's and don'ts and philosophy on calories in versus out to reach a preset goal. It wasn't easy so I thought to myself "self, there are options". I could join a group (nah, at heart I'm a loner when it comes to things like this) or send away for food (too much respect for food for that) or even some kind of OTC or prescription weight loss pills (sorry, explosive diarrhea ain't my thing). No, in the end I decided good old fashioned diet and exercise was my path. So I embraced my inner geek and figured "there's an app for that too". And there was. 3 intertwined apps in fact. My Fitness Pal to track net calories versus calories burned thru exercise became my new weight loss guide. I'll go over these 3 phone apps (also websites) in part 3 of this multi-part epic tale. I set my goal at 200 lbs and it gave me a net calories (calories from food less calories burned thru exercise) of 2050 daily to achieve this goal (it doesn't specify a date as how far you're over or under changes the projection). The morning walk and gym 3-4 times a week and having a job where I am pretty active have made the exercise part pretty easy. Next I had to learn how and when to use these calories. It's not as easy as it sounds as I'm dealing with pre-high cholesterol and pre-hypertension so certain foods (eggs, cold cuts, etc) which I was told were good based on calories and lack of carbs weren't good for some of my other issues. So now most of my breakfasts are Egg Beaters, bagel slims and leaner breakfast meats, lunch is home cooked protein in a sandwich or in a salad (I roast a turkey breast every single week) and dinner is mostly grilled meats and veggies. It's not perfect as there are always traps to everything but veggies and how food is prepared can make a HUGE difference.Yup, it's mundane but that's now my life in food

So I'm no expert on anything to do with health but this has been working for me. That said I have a few advantages most people don't. As a single person who lives alone I only have to prepare meals for me and not a wife or kids. I also have no one to make a schedule around so when I eat and when I exercise is all by choice, not circumstance. Mostly my biggest advantage is I'm never hungry! Haven't been for years. Maybe a result of the diabetes? Not sure but the fact is I can't recall the last time my stomach rumbled. So, how did I get so fat (beer consumption aside)? As I discussed with my sister I fall into the "live to eat" and she the "eat to live" category. I love food! I crave the tastes and textures and smells...but I'm never hungry. This is a big plus. There are pitfalls of course like the fact I hate cooked veggies but I'm trying. That 3 of my primal loves, potatoes, white bread and cheese (OK, 4 including beer), are on the "not good" list. And meal prep and planning, essential to living like this, can be a wicked drag. Some days are simply walk, eat, work, eat, gym, eat, prep food for next day, sleep. I've had lot's of great advice along the way from healthier food prep to "clean" foods to supplements for a heart healthy lifestyle and it's all been greatly appreciated

I've stated before my plan is this isn't a diet but a switch to a healthier lifestyle as diets to me have a beginning and end. That said I still want to be an active 46 y/o single guy and not fret about the occasional cheat meal, cheat day or beer blast. If I know it's coming I'll simply exercise more in anticipation. If I go over my calorie count one day, no biggie, right back at it the next day. Bottom line is I'm seeing results externally and internally. When I look in the mirror my face looks thinner, almost withdrawn versus how it's been for 25 years. My paunch is less paunchy. At the same time my once tree trunk legs are now looking lean and toned (well except the Popeye calves) which I'm not sure I like but hopefully being back to weight training will solve that issue. Most importantly the numbers that matter are improving. As of today, May 1 2013, my blood pressure is 125/75  with a resting bpm of 86 versus 140/89 with a resting bpm of 106. My fasting blood sugar has been mostly sub 110 and never higher then 130 for over a month now (versus 220-240 in February) and my weight is 208 versus 234. So yeah, I'm getting there but I have a long way to go. Healthy is more important then looking good so I wouldn't anticipate any shirtless "before and after" pictures ever! I have no idea where it will lead and lord knows I wouldn't be the first person to talk about all this stuff then fall on his face but I feel like I'm off to a good start

We'll wrap this up next time with how using my iPhone for more then Words With Friends has been the key to my early success

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rich O 2.0 Part 1- How We Got Here (Or How Getting The Shingles Changed My Life And I Never Had A Chance To Thank Them)

OK, I admit it, I'm not nearly as smart as I think I am. Oh, I'm not stupid, I'm just not smart. Well, at least not when it comes to taking care of myself. I'm 46 years old, Type 2 diabetic and have been overweight most of the latter part of my adult life. Ironically, I never get sick hence I rarely end up at the doctors. This past February I developed a painful rash in the middle of my back and from a discussion with someone who had been thru it before determined it was shingles. So I did something out of the ordinary- I went to the doctor. OK, actually it was a nurse practitioner which was cool as my primary is kind of a tool. She confirms it's shingles and prescribes an anti-viral. As I get up to leave she informs me it's been nearly 3 years since my last physical!! I agree she's correct and, based on a pact I made with a friend, I consent to come in for a physical. Long story short- height 5'9', weight 234 lbs (actually down over the last few years but still), blood sugar A1C was in the range of 11 when it should be lower then a 6, blood pressure was 140/89 with a resting bpm of 106 and my cholesterol was borderline high but as a diabetic, too high. By the grace of God I hadn't done any damage to my internal organs but still, yikes. So she upped my diabetes med, put me on something for the cholesterol and high blood pressure and sent me on my merry way and told to come back in 6 weeks. Wake up call #3. Something had to be done so I...wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Just how the hell did I get here?? Glad you asked...

Growing up I was small, thin, and physically not very strong. Maybe what you'd call a late bloomer. Somewhere around the summer of between 7th and 8th grade 2 things happened. I started filling out and I discovered weight lifting. Becoming the strongest I could be became an  obsession. I never cared about a body builders physique just raw power. The high school gym wasn't enough anymore so I saved my money and joined Mike's gym (calling it a shit hole would be an insult to actual shit holes) and learned a lot more about serious strength training. I graduated from high school around a solid 200 lbs with a bench press of around 325 lbs. In college I threw the hammer on the track team but was far and away the smallest guy there at around 210 lbs. The coach and his star athlete were both heavy into performance enhancing drugs which was something I would never consider. I did learn good strength training from the experience and by the time I graduated I was around 225 lbs and had a bench press (always my best lift so its my best point of reference) of around 375 lbs. In my 20's I fluctuated from a lean 185 to a stocky 250 all the while only being concerned with being the strongest guy in the gym. Somewhere around 1996 I blew out my knee playing touch football and needed surgery. It turns out I hadn't had a physical since my college entrance physical in 1984 (I'm serious)!! I get on the scale and to my horror I'm 297 lbs!!!!! I never would have guessed as I always thought I had that 1960's wrestler/tight end sort of look; big chest, big belly, short thick arms. But really? 300 lbs?? Wake up call #1

Flash forward a few years. Now in my early 30's walking around at a "trim" 265 lbs. Still healthy, still stronger then most guys 10 years my junior peaking at a 485 gym lift bench press. Then it all started unraveling. Chronic issues with both shoulders cropped up and I started training down. In 2003 2 things happened (things tend to happen in pairs for me). I moved out on my own for the first time ever and I completely tore my right shoulder rotator cuff. I didn't know how to cook so eating healthy wasn't a priority and as I had moved a stones throw from a dozen bars...well, enough said. Much like with the knee when I went to have should surgery it turns out my last physical had been that now infamous 297 lb physical in 1996!! Ugh. So I have surgery, get the physical and await the results which don't come. A couple months later, out of curiosity, I call and ask what happened and they tell me it slipped thru the cracks. One night, coming home from the bar, I check my mail and there's the results. I call my older sister and ask what blood sugar in the 200's means?? She tells me I'm diabetic and call the doctor right away!! I'm not going to lie, I cried a lot that night. Thinking about everything I would have to give up was crushing to me. Wake up call #2

Well the diabetic thing wasn't the end of my life. I got meds, changed my diet, found an interest in cooking and lived a slightly healthier lifestyle. At this point I was around 240-245 lbs. I checked my blood levels, watched what I ate etc etc etc. All seemed well as I still hadn't had one tell-tale symptom. As my cooking and baking skills improved my healthier eating backslid and I started eating like a non-diabetic. I mean, I took my meds and I felt great. At the same time my wear and tear injuries started accumulating and getting to the gym to train became more and more a chore and going just for cardio was almost unthinkable. I got into a prolonged slump. My hours at work changed to going in an hour later and working an hour later at night. This was the perfect time for a fresh start of fitness and activity in the morning! Well, that didn't happen. Worse yet trying to get to the gym after 7:00 at night just wasn't happening.  As irony would have it I was the walking around the lightest I'd been in more of a decade but lying just below the surface I was in bad shape

So that brings us back to where this tale started. I was guilty of the Deadly sins of both gluttony and sloth and that had to change...but that's for next time

Friday, March 08, 2013

...But Nobody Does Anything About It

"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it". Twain? I forget but it's one of quotes I think about when weather hysteria starts. People do something about it; they lose their freakin minds!! In this super-sized media age we live in bad weather is big business. Local TV scores  major ratings boosts and social media just plain blows up! My question is what's the fascination? We're Americans and we've been dealing with this stuff for hundreds of years. Why in this day and age of back-up generators, SUVs, work crews on issues in minutes and space age, "green" ice and snow melting agents are we so worked into a tizzy about bad weather??

Lets just talk snow shall we. Admittedly we had an assload of snow this winter so it's a perfect place to start. Keep in mind I'm looking at this from a regional aspect as a lifelong resident of New England living in a city with a dense population. I can't speak for the Midwest but somehow I cant see them panicking over snowfall like we do. . OK, so the Doppler shows on Tuesday  we may get snow Friday so Harvey Wankum Tweets this and posts it to his stations Facebook page and gets the ball rolling. Next its on every local channel and ripping through social media like a ho knife through butter. Now we're worked up to a lather. Cancel school! Cancel plans! Get to the grocery store for God's sake!!! And why? Because we're obsessed with doomsday scenarios. We may lose power. We may lose heat. We may lose water. We may but we usually don't At 46 years of age I can't remember a weather scenario where I lost running water. I just can't. I've lost power many times but thankfully for never more then a day. Generally speaking life goes on with some inconvenience.  I say this as a completely true statement that in 24 years at the same job I've only not had to report for work  2 times because of weather.

What I am most befuddled by is the way in which we panic and the purchases we make. Shovels, flashlights, batteries, gas for the car or snow blower all make perfect sense. But what's with the bread and milk? Are you going to be snowed in for a week? And, in the most likely scenario, if you lose power what happens to that milk? Water would be far more important to have and going back to my earlier point the odds (where I and most of you reading this live) of losing clean, running water is slim based on 46 years of experience. Toilet paper? OK, so lets go doomsday and you lose running water, what good is tp? Or whats the worst case scenario? A house with 8 people with chronic diarrhea snowed in for a day who mysteriously had only 1 roll of toilet paper to start the week? Trust me,by hook or by crook your backside will survive this

Now, I've been accused of being laissez faire about inclement weather and not taking it seriously. This may be true but I look at it only from my scenario. I'm single, no kids, live in a densely populated city with access to public transportation, I can walk to a dozen stores in less then a mile, I own a car, I live on the second floor of a brick building and have snow removal service, my mom is well attended by my sisters (and they by her). If I lost power or water or heat I would head to my moms, or my sisters, or a hotel. These are facts. When the snow starts flying and I've done all I can do (which is very little) its just a matter of crossing my fingers and waiting it out

I lived through the Blizzard Of 78' and I lived through Nemo and I can say Nemo, you're no Blizzard Of 78'. We never saw 78' coming and we were crippled by it. But radars were different, our cars were different, we were not as uptight then. But we survived and as an 11 year old kid it was one of the best weeks of my life. For all the build up to Nemo we got off pretty easy and for most of us the second worst storm we lived through ended up as more an inconvenience then devastation. I applaud the Governor of the stae and the mayors of the major cities for how they handled the storm. This is the world we live in now and the reason I find the panic so weird

In closing I will do something I don't normally do, give a caveat.  As always these are a (hopefully) humorous exaggeration o my real thoughts but I'd be remiss in being insensitive to anyone who has lost loved ones or property due to weather.